The Best Thing About All Nine Jorge Soler Plate Appearances by August Fagerstrom October 13, 2015 One of the great intrigues of the postseason is that when the final page turns on the regular season, the book slams shut. Anything that happened in the previous 162 games is firmly in the past, and anyone lucky enough to play more than that is granted a second chance to change something about the way his season is ultimately remembered, whether for good or for bad. Forget what happened in the regular season; right now, Jorge Soler looks like a star. Carlos Correa is the clear-cut Rookie of the Year, and why would anyone question that Dallas Keuchel deserves the Cy Young Award? Haven’t you been paying attention? Never mind that just 72 hours ago, Soler was still coming off a disappointing rookie season, Correa still trailed Francisco Lindor by more than a win on our WAR leaderboard, and Keuchel’s season-end line was still about indecipherable from David Price’s. By being on a playoff roster, every player is afforded the opportunity to write a new chapter of their history; those three happen to be taking advantage. Jorge Soler, specifically, is having himself quite a time. There’s a problem, though, with trying to analyze a three-game stretch that covers nine plate appearances. The problem is that sometimes you end up with slash lines like 1.000/1.000/2.750, and those are just three silly numbers with slashes between. With nine plate appearances worth analyzing, it feels far more instructive to isolate them. That’s the only way you’re going to get anything out of it, at least. Rather than try to make too much out of Soler’s last nine plate appearances, let’s just find the best part about each one. Plate appearance #1: walk Best thing: Jorge Soler drew a walk! If there’s one thing to keep in mind about Soler, it’s this: when he swung at pitches outside the strike zone this season, he made contact less than 40% of the time, one of the 10 lowest rates in the near-decade that such information has been recorded. Of those 10, he had the highest swing rate at those pitches outside the zone. For Soler, plate discipline has been a problem. It might even be the problem. He still draws his fair share of walks, but any sign of a disciplined eye is a positive. Plate appearance #2: double Best thing: Jorge Soler hit an offspeed pitch! Against fastballs this season, Soler batted .351 with an .878 OPS. Against non-fastballs, he hit just .144 with a .369 OPS. Here, in a 3-2 count, Soler is probably gearing up for a heater. It’s the pitch he most wants, and the pitch he’s most likely to see. His swing, to the untrained eye, seems to indicate that, but he’s able to stay back on Garcia’s changeup and lace it into the corner for a standup double. Any sign of Soler handling the offspeed is a positive. Plate appearance #3: home run Best thing: Jorge Soler hit an offspeed pitch for a dinger, and to center field! Soler’s previous at-bat was just a stepping stone. First, he waited back on a changeup long enough to pull it into the left field corner. This time, he waited on the changeup enough to muscle it out to center field. Let’s briefly interrupt this program to view Soler’s career spray chart against offspeed pitches, before these playoffs started: The two takeaways from this image are that (a) Soler had produced just three career homers against offspeed pitches before this one and (b) anything hit with authority has been pulled. A few weeks back, Soler hit a slider out to center field for the first time. Now, he’s hit one out right of center field for the first time. Any sign of Soler being able to do damage against the offspeed without pulling it is a positive. Plate appearance #4: walk Best thing: This bat flip! Bat flips are awesome. Walk bat flips are awesome, and Soler does them every time. This is actually one of the more tame Soler walk bat flips, but nothing notable happened in this at-bat, so this became the designated “bat flip” selection, by default. Plate appearance #5: walk Best thing: Jorge Soler walked after being down 0-2! Worst Two-Strike Approaches in 2015, min. 400 PA Rank Player Season OPS 2Strike OPS 2Strike tOPS+ 1 Carlos Gonzalez 0.864 0.424 2 2 Adam LaRoche 0.634 0.333 7 3 Jorge Soler 0.723 0.397 11 4 Mitch Moreland 0.812 0.444 12 5 Ryan Goins 0.672 0.380 14 SOURCE: baseball-reference.com tOPS+: OPS relative to a player’s total OPS. A number above 100 indicates the player did better than usual in the selected split, below 100 indicates worse than usual production. Given Soler’s issues with handling offspeed and breaking pitches out of the zone, it’s not surprising to learn that he suffered among the largest drop-offs in performance once reaching a two-strike count this season. Here, Soler fell behind 0-2 to Seth Maness after two heavy cuts, but took the next four pitches — all of which were reasonably close — and worked a walk from an 0-2 count for just the second time in his career. Plate appearance #6: walk Best thing: This guy’s outfit! Make no mistake about it, that’s a cool grandpa right there. Yep. A cool grandpa is a man evolved into his final form. This man has achieved all there is to achieve. Marlins Man’s throne as “most notable guy behind home plate” has been usurped. Cool Grandpa in Pink Hat is the new king of the hill. Plate appearance #7: walk Best thing: This take! Y’know, the close three-ball take gets all the fanfare, but I think a nice two-ball take is more impressive, because a close two-ball take doesn’t even earn you a walk. There’s no immediate payoff from a close two-ball take. You see how badly Soler wanted to swing here, but he held off, because the pitch was inches outside the strike zone, and Soler doesn’t swing at pitches outside the strike zone anymore. No, really, this is his swing plot since the postseason began: Plate appearance #8: single Best thing: Still Jorge Soler, everyone! Soler’s loved ones were starting to become worried they’d never again see the man they grew to love, what with all the off-speed hitting and close-pitch-taking. This was just a necessary reminder that he’s still here. Plate appearance #9: home run Best thing: Everything! I mean, come on. Dude hadn’t made an out in eight of eight postseason trips to the plate, then hits a two-run bomb off the first pitch Adam Wainwright threw to give his team a three-run lead at home in the sixth. Kinda goes without saying, right?